Today in Apple history: PowerBook 165 becomes Apple’s most affordable laptop

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PowerBook 165 was Apple's most affordable laptop.
A less-remembered PowerBook, but an important one.
Photo: Miguel Durán/Wikipedia CC

August 16 Today in Apple history August 16, 1993: Apple ships the PowerBook 165, a lower-cost grayscale version of the PowerBook 165c, which was the company’s first laptop to offer a color display.

The new model lacks the most attention-grabbing feature of the 165c, but it also brings its own claim to fame. The PowerBook 165 is Apple’s most affordable laptop yet.

PowerBook 165 lacks color, gains affordability

The PowerBook 165 was intended as a replacement for 1992’s PowerBook 160. The PowerBook was a great laptop in its own right, and was notable for being the first PowerBook able to drive an external color monitor. In terms of design and spec, the PowerBook 165 was virtually identical — only minus the FPU and with an increase in speed from 25Mhz to 33Mhz.

By 1993, the laptop Apple was pushing most heavily was its PowerBook 165c. Although the PowerBook 160 supported color to an external monitor, the 165c boasted an actual color display. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a particularly good screen.

The PowerBook 165c sported an 8.4-inch, passive-matrix color display, which could appear dim if not viewed head-on under ideal conditions. Users wanting a great color display on an Apple laptop were better off buying the PowerBook 180c laptop, an upgrade to the higher-end PowerBook 180. (See how confusing Apple’s product lines were in the 1990s?)

Where the PowerBook 165 had the edge was on price. The PowerBook 160 it replaced cost $2,480. Meanwhile, the PowerBook 165c cost a whopping $3,870, and a fully kitted-out PowerBook 180c would set you back $4,079.

The PowerBook 165 started at just $1,970. That was the best part of $300 cheaper than the next-cheapest laptop Apple had made.

Today, the PowerBook 165 isn’t one of the laptops most people talk about when they wax nostalgic about Apple products. In the early 1990s, however, when laptops were extremely pricey, this was a solid machine that didn’t cost the world. By today’s standards, it would cost $3,337.

Did you own the PowerBook 165? What was your earliest Apple laptop? Leave your comments below.